However, after praising again and again, you still may have not received what you prayed for. You ask God again, "Why is this so?" You then find out that after you have faith, you must not only praise, but also must remind God. As the Lord said in Isaiah, "Put Me in remembrance" (43:26). It is as if God can forget, and we have to remind Him. God may have promised, but He needs us to remind Him. We should say, not with a heart of unbelief but with a heart of faith, "Lord, You have given me Your promise. You should remember Your promise." This is exactly what King Solomon did. He said to God, "Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established" (2 Chron. 1:9). This way of reminding God is very meaningful. The reason that God delays His promise is that we may have the opportunity to deal with Him. In this way we acquire new knowledge; we have learned how to remind Him.
A DEEPER LESSON
Having done all these, you may still not have what you asked for. There is something more you have to learn. The matter of prayer is so simple that even a six-year-old child can do it, but it is also so complicated that a person with seventy or eighty years of experience still has much that he does not know or comprehend. Perhaps God wants you to wait. Or perhaps Satan is attacking you, in which case you should learn to resist. The knowledge of God’s way is acquired through numerous prayers. The next time you pray, you will know how much you have to remove; then you will get God’s answer whenever you ask. An experienced believer has a great deal of assurance about his prayers. He knows without any doubt that at a certain time God has answered his prayer. Without this kind of knowledge, we will not know whether or not God has answered us. We will also be full of doubts and have no rest at all. We must learn to know God in things that are big or small. If we do this again and again, God will answer our prayer.
Once a friend of mine was short of one hundred fifty dollars (if I remember right). At the time he was living in a village. He needed this amount of money on Monday, and it was Saturday. The steam ferryboat only docked at his village several times during the week, and no boats were scheduled to arrive before Monday. He had only two dollars in his pocket. He prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to him, "You still have two dollars. This is only Saturday. Wait until the two dollars are spent, and see what happens on Monday." He submitted to God and concentrated on how he should spend the two dollars. As he went out to preach the gospel, he met a man who said to him, "I cleaned your windows the other day and have not yet asked you for payment." So he paid this person one dollar as usual. Now he had only one dollar remaining in his pocket. As he walked further, he met a beggar asking for money. He thought about having only one dollar, and the dollar seemed to become more precious to him. He considered changing the dollar into coins and giving half of the coins to the beggar. But at that very moment, he knew that was wrong, and he, subsequently, gave the whole dollar to the beggar. Once the dollar bill went out, God came in. He was very happy and said that there was nothing left for him to depend on in this world and that God must take care of him and bless him. He went to sleep and worked on the Lord’s Day as usual. It was marvelous that one of his friends cabled him a money order on Monday, and it was exactly one hundred fifty dollars. If I remember right, the cable charge was about thirty to fifty dollars. But there was not any shortage for the payment he was supposed to make.
Every time we want God to answer our prayers, we must go through God’s dealing. Even a large bottle can be plugged with a small plug. If it is then thrown into the sea, not one drop of sea water will enter into the bottle. The two dollars remaining in our pockets are just like the small plug; if we do not remove this plug, we cannot receive anything from God. We cannot learn very much at once. However, if we have prayed for ten years, we should have ten years of praying experience; if we have prayed for twenty years, we should have twenty years of praying experience. Our experience should become deeper as time goes on. In the end we will realize that even the words of our prayer are crucial. We will know that if we pray in a certain way, God will not listen, and if we pray in another way, God will listen. Everything has to be thoroughly studied. Whenever we pray we should have the confidence that God will answer. We do not have to wait three to five months to realize God’s answer. Without the experience of knowing God in prayer, no one can have the experience of knowing God.
Once, Miss M.E. Barber felt that it was God’s will that she prepare about ten rooms for hospitality for believers. These would be apartment-like buildings. She prayed for this and, marvelously, God caused a nearby vocational school to close and it was rented to her. There were twenty rooms altogether, and the monthly rent was only twenty dollars. The matter was thus settled. I felt that it was quite remarkable.
Four years later, some bad news came that the vocational school would be reopened. I heard this news through my father because he was one of the board members of the school. One afternoon I went purposely to visit Miss Barber and asked whether or not she was aware of the news. She said that she had indeed received a notice from the school that it was scheduled to reopen in the fall. The school had hired two engineers from the United States to come, and they were on their way. The matter was very certain in their eyes. I asked her, "Are you going to move?" She said, "No." I asked again, "Have you prayed?" She said, "No, I do not even need to pray this time." A young believer who was there said that she must have been deceived by Satan. She answered, "Do not say that so quickly; let us wait and see." Then I asked her again how she could be so sure. She said, "God does not play jokes on us. He said that He wanted me to manage some living quarters. I have done this. He has not told me to stop; will He cast us out? God does not play jokes on us." But how about the other party? The engineers were on their way, and the opening of the school was definite. But she was enjoying her summer vacation peacefully on the mountain, as if this situation would never occur. Remarkably, when she was about to come down from the mountain, the school sent her a letter telling her that the school would not reopen. They asked her to continue renting the rooms because, while they were preparing to reopen the school, an unexpected financial change had forced them to declare bankruptcy. Oh, once we realize clearly the principle of God’s working, no matter what happens, we will know definitely how to deal with it. In this way we will avoid many unnecessary actions and words. If we know God, we will certainly know the way He acts. If we know a person’s disposition, we can predict how he will act and speak under various circumstances. If we know God, we will know whether He will answer our prayers or not.
Today the church is always paying attention to Bible studies. Bible studies are very important, but I urge everyone to realize that it is more important to know God. After you have learned all these lessons, when you see someone with problems, groping in darkness, you will be very clear about what he should do. Situations may differ, but the principle is the same. When you pray with someone, you will know assuredly whether his prayer will be answered or not. When you pray with two persons, you will know which one knows how to pray and which one does not. This does not mean that you are a prophet; it merely means that you know the outcome of their prayer based on their spiritual condition.
We must never be contented and never think that it does not matter whether or not God answers our prayer. How precious it is to have a definite answer every time.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 10: The Present Testimony (3), Chapter 14, by Watchman Nee)